783 bicyclists died in traffic crashes in the U.S. in 2017. 75% of bicyclist deaths happened in urban areas. As you can see, biking safety is absolutely vital. But are the benefits of cycling offset by sharing the road with distracted drivers?
We get it. If you’re looking to pick up cycling, friends will warn you away from it. Riding on the roads puts you at risk of reckless drivers. And riding on beautiful, secluded bike paths puts you at risk to get mugged.
But we still believe biking benefits outweigh the risks. And there’s a lot you can do to protect yourself on the road. We share what you need to ensure your biking safety.
Safe Biking Comes Down to Gear
We shouldn’t have to say this, but we will anyway: wear your helmet. It’s not illegal in any state to ride without a helmet. But 21 states and the District of Columbia do have helmet laws for young riders.
With that in mind, the most serious biking injuries are to the head. In fact, helmet use can reduce the odds of a head injury by 50%.
Take time to pick out the right bike helmet and make sure it fits properly – after all, your life may depend on it.
Aside from head injuries, a cyclist is more likely to get involved in a fatal accident between 6-9 p.m.
This is the evening commute time for many workers. Stressed, exhausted drivers are eager to get home. Mix that with poor lighting conditions as the sun sets, and it’s a perfect mixture for a biker to get overlooked.
When you’re biking, especially in poor lighting conditions, make sure drivers can see you. Bike in a designated biking lane, and avoid the sidewalk. Follow all traffic laws, and above all, ride the way a driver expects you to.
Wear bright, reflective colors. Make sure your bike has a white front light and a red rear light and reflectors.
Consider getting a light up reflector that flashes, like this one here. This will make it even easier for drivers to see you.
Obey The Laws
By law, a bicycle, even a bike that isn’t an e-bike, is a motorized vehicle. Cyclists have to follow all the same laws as a car in traffic.
By doing so, you actually stay safer as a cyclist. Stop at all stop signs and stop lights. Make sure to ride in a designated bike lane and go with the flow of traffic.
Avoid sidewalks. In many cities, it’s illegal for a bike to ride on the sidewalk. But on top of that, drivers don’t expect quick moving traffic to come from the sidewalk. They’re less likely to notice you.
This comes down to being aware of the road and other drivers around you. Don’t text, listen to music, or do anything else that pulls your mind, eyes, or ears off the road.
Assume that you’re invisible to all drivers until you look them in the eye. While this may seem extreme, it’s pretty much true. Thanks to smartphones and smart cars, more drivers are driving distractedly than before. This puts cyclists, pedestrians, and other drivers all at risk.
So assume, that guy is going to open his car door right into your path. Assume that the driver doesn’t see you turning right. And assume the guy backing out of his driveway doesn’t know you’re there.
Because when it comes to man vs car, the car has the upper hand, and you’re better off avoiding a crash as much as possible.
Keep an Eye on Road Conditions
Of course, you’re going to take extra precautions when it’s rainy or icy. But 13% of bike accidents happen because a roadway isn’t in good repair.
So pay attention to potholes and construction signs. If your usual route is undergoing construction, consider changing courses.
Pay attention after a big storm when downed tree branches and debris might be in your path.
Take a Biking Safety Course
The best way to stay confident and safe is to know your bike, and the laws in the city you live in. Especially if you’re new to urban biking, take a biking safety course. Some of our Guru’s offer biking safety courses, you can check them out here!
Set Up a Safety Network
Does your path take you along a busy, crowded street or down a secluded nature pathway? Are you going to be gone for a long time?
Set up a safety network with someone you trust. This can be a loved one or a coworker, a friend or family member. Let them know your path and what time you expect to be to your location. Promise them that if you’re behind schedule, you’ll contact them. If they don’t hear from you by a set time, have them contact authorities.
This way, if something does happen to you on your bike ride, you have someone looking out for you. They can get authorities to you as soon as possible.
Google Maps offers a free Location Sharing service. Consider enabling it while you’re out. This way your guardian angel can track your progress. Hopefully, they’ll notice if something has gone amiss.
Also, consider biking safety apps like the eCrumb feature on the RoadID app. It works in a similar way, where a friend can keep an eye on your location while you’re on the move.
Down, But Not Out
Biking accidents happen to the best of us, but we don’t let that keep us down! Cyclists know that accidents come with the territory of biking. But by wearing the right gear and being a defensive driver, you can cut your risk of accidents and injury.
These tips will help keep you safe on the road.
Want to get all the amazing benefits that come with bicycling but you don’t want to risk getting in an accident? Read why shuttle biking is the safest form of biking – ever. Hint: it’s on the water!